(10a) How were people saved before Lord Jesus Christ was born ?

Genesis 3:17-19

"And unto Adam He said, `Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, `Thou shalt not eat of it;' cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

Before Adam's sin there weren't any thorns or thistles or weeds or obnoxious insects or whatever in the world. The earth was perfect! But when sin entered, the curse literally ruined everything and all of our problems in this world stem back to the curse brought on by sin; and these problems will continue until the curse is lifted at the return of Christ, which we believe will be soon.

Verse 19 tells us that man, as long as he lives, is going to have to work for his living. Can you imagine what our economy would be like if man didn't have to eat? Look at how many businesses, jobs and other things in our world are connected with our having to eat. Our whole economy is structured on the fact that man has to work in order to eat until he returns to the dust of the earth himself.

Verse 20 is an interesting verse to contemplate. We have no way of knowing how long Adam and his wife were in the Garden of Eden, for the Bible doesn't tell us. But however long a time it was, Adam didn't have a name for his wife there. She was simply called "the woman." After sin entered the picture, and after the curse had been pronounced, Adam names his wife "Eve," which means "Mother of all living."

According to the Scriptural account, all Adam has been told is that on the day that he eats of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he will die. Now he has eaten and is ready to be driven out of the garden (if they are not already out) and he names his wife, "Mother of all living." This indicates that somehow God caused Adam to understand that even though he has sinned and lost fellowship with his God, that he is still going to live for sometime with his wife and they are going to have children and that the whole human race will come from him and his wife. God must somehow have communicated this to Adam and Adam believed it.

In order to understand the whole picture, it is necessary for you to study this in depth. Obviously God somehow told Adam that he and Eve were to be the parents of the entire human race, and obviously Adam believed God. This is the first instance recorded in Scripture of faith - of man taking God at His Word! By faith Adam believed what God said concerning him and the woman, and consequently he names her "Mother of all living." And Adam's faith prompts God to do something.

Just as we saw in the three previous lessons with our circle illustration, when the Holy Spirit of God prompts us to believe, then God moves in on our behalf to do whatever is necessary to accomplish our salvation. God did the same thing for Adam. When Adam believed God and exercised his faith in God's Word, God moved in and did what needed to be done to accomplish that Word. Remember that in Hebrews 9:22 it says that, "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin?" In order for Adam and Eve to be able to continue on and receive God's promise to them, there had to be a blood sacrifice. The Old Testament sacrifices were a foreshadowing, a picture of the supreme sacrifice of the "Lamb of God," Christ Himself, to take place in the future. And in Genesis 3:21 God institutes animal sacrifice:

Genesis 3:21

"Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them."

Notice that Adam and Eve didn't do this as they had done the fig leaf aprons. This was done by God! Somehow or other, God killed the animal or animals, the blood was shed and the language used here says that God "made coats of the skin for Adam and his wife" (which covered their nakedness), "and He clothed them." Too often people, when they read that verse simply think that God gave Adam and Eve hides or skins to make a physical covering for them, but there was more to it than that. Turn to Isaiah 61:10:

Isaiah 61:10

"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels."

God not only gave Adam and Eve covering for their physical bodies, but He provided the "garments of salvation" and "robes of righteousness" - His salvation in Christ Jesus, and His righteousness. And that is what God has done for us as well! Let's compare Romans 3:21,22 with the above passage from Isaiah 61:10:

Romans 3:21,22

"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:"

The righteousness of God is placed upon us when we exercise faith in what God has said. God clothes us in righteous garments, wedding clothes, so that when God looks on us, He sees Jesus' own righteousness in and on us, not our old sinful nature. (Matt. 22:2-14). There is no way that we can earn this by being religious or doing religious things. This is God's righteousness which He imparts to us when we believe the Gospel. We have to understand what the Bible doesn't say as much as what it does say! Turn now to I Corinthians 2:13-14:

I Corinthians 2:13,14

"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man (the "old Adamic nature" of our illustration) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

As an unregenerate child of Adam, one cannot understand or desire the things of God, but when, by the work of the Holy Spirit within him, he becomes able to believe the truths of God's Word, then God is able to complete the work of salvation in him, making him righteous in His sight.

Look back now at Genesis 3:22-24, and we'll finish up with these verses. In verse 21 God had restored man to fellowship with Him by means of blood sacrifice.

Genesis 3:22

"And the LORD God said, `Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever." Notice how this verse leaves you hanging! What would have happened if Adam had been able to eat from the tree of life and live forever? It would have been terrible!

Genesis 3:23,24

"Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." God drove them from the garden for their own protection, ultimately to benefit mankind.


Genesis 4:2-5

"And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."

Hebrew text indicates God apparently instructed this family how to approach Him. He didn't just send them out of the Garden to fend for themselves. He still had their spiritual needs at heart.

"In the process of time …" found in verse 3 indicates the passage of time, we don't know how much, but obviously long enough for them to understand clearly just how to gain fellowship with God. Remember those two mandatory statements of Scripture found in Hebrews: "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" and "Without faith it is impossible to please God." And remember that "faith" is simply taking God at His Word … Believing Him. Now Cain and Abel have become young men, many years have passed. Cain is farming and raising things from the ground; Abel is a shepherd. Look again at verses 3 through 5:

Genesis 4:3-5

"And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." See the difference? Cain's offering came from the ground... it could not shed blood! Abel, on the other hand, brought a blood sacrifice which was acceptable, and accepted, by God, but God rejected Cain's offering. Now turn to Hebrews 11:4:

Hebrews 11:4

"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh."

"By Faith" … by taking God at His Word … Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice, and by that same faith he (Abel) obtained witness that he was righteous in God's sight. He was righteous! He was placed in right standing with God and could fellowship with God. We are in that same position in Christ Jesus! We also by our faith in the blood of Jesus have been placed in right standing with God and we can communicate with Him. He has declared us right with Himself! "God testifying" that Abel was in right standing with Him! (Abel didn't have to brag about it or claim it!) God Himself had now made it clear that Abel was accepted by God. Although sin had made its mark, yet by virtue of Abel's faith and obedience in sacrifice, Abel was made right with God. But what about Cain? Look again at Genesis 4:5:

Genesis 4:5

"But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."

People haven't changed! When people are shown from the Word of God that they're out in left field as far as what they're practicing, their first reaction is much the same as was Cain's! Like him, they get angry! Cain got "very angry" when God rejected his offering, but God is so gracious and kind, even with a rebellious person like Cain. He didn't just "zap" Cain; rather, He pleaded with him. Verses 6 and 7 read:

Genesis 4:6,7

"And the LORD said unto Cain, `Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him."

God said, "Cain, if you would just listen to what I said and do it, I'd accept you!" It boils down to a comparison of a man of faith and a man destitute of faith. Abel remembered what God had said to do to be accepted - "Bring me a blood sacrifice," and obeyed because he believed God.

Cain, on the other hand, rationalized. He was a farmer, and apparently didn't have any sheep. He didn't want to go to his brother to barter for a sheep, so he decided in his heart, "If I do the best that I can and put together the best, most beautiful fruit/vegetable/flower sacrifice that I can for God, surely He'll accept it." But that's not doing what God said!

Isn't that what the majority of people do today too? Instead of getting into the Word and finding out what God says we have to believe, they rationalize, "if I do thus and such, if I live according to a particular behavior pattern, surely God will accept me." And God won't accept them any more than He did Cain and his sacrifice. We can be acceptable to God only if we come to Him on His terms and conditions!

In verse 7, the terms translated "sin" in the phrase "sin crouching at the door" can also be translated "sin offering," so a better reading of this verse would be: "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, a sin offering is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."

A good Biblical illustration of this is found in Genesis 22, when Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice to God. God, however, stopped Abraham and because Abraham still needed a sacrifice, God provided one in the ram that was caught in the thicket.

Now, in Genesis 4:7, God is offering the same substitute to Cain. God is saying, "Cain, if you'll go back home, right at your tent door, I've provided a lamb. He's not going to run from you or struggle against you, but rather he'll succumb to you ("its desire is for you"). All you have to do is go pick it up and bring it to me and I'll accept you."

But Cain is self-willed, and still refuses to believe what God tells him and remains disobedient to God. He was destitute of faith! So again, why was Abel accepted and Cain rejected? Because Abel brought a blood sacrifice and believed God; Cain brought a bloodless sacrifice and refused to believe God. Cain brought what he thought God should accept!

People do the same thing today. They try to approach God on their own terms even though He's already provided the blood sacrifice in the perfect "Lamb of God," Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary. They refuse to accept His provision for them and refuse to believe what God says. They don't have faith!



Turn to Genesis 4:8. In our last chapter we were discussing Cain and why Abel was accepted and Cain was rejected by God. It boils down to a simple matter of being obedient to what God says, or being disobedient to Him. Abel brought a blood sacrifice as God had instructed; God accepted that sacrifice and Abel was restored to a right relationship with his God. Cain, on the other hand, brought a bloodless sacrifice - that which was of self will; God rejected it; Cain got angry and God came back and told Cain that He had already provided a lamb for his sacrifice if only he would return to his tent, get the lamb and bring it back to offer to God. Still, Cain would not. To get our minds cleared on why some people can never get to the place where they can believe these things, go back to Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter, and look at verse 4:

Hebrews 11:4

"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh."

This says it all! Abel was accepted because of his faith. Now look at Hebrews 12. We'll see another individual whom we alluded to in our last lesson - Esau, a man who was probably a better moral person than his brother, Jacob. Remember that Esau was a hunter and was best loved of his father, Isaac, so when Isaac wanted that venison meal, Esau rushed out to get it. However, while he was gone hunting, his brother Jacob had, by trickery; provided the meal for their father. Then, when Esau came back from the hunt, being tired and hungry he gladly traded his spiritual birthright for a bowl of bean soup! Why? He was destitute of faith. What God had said of the coming of the Redeemer through the line of Abraham meant absolutely nothing to him; but Jacob, rascal that he was, evidently had enough of a concept of what God said He would do, that he could believe it and be a man of faith. Look at verses 16 and 17:

Hebrews 12:16,17

"Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. for ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."

See, Esau was in the same position as Cain. This is hard to comprehend until you understand that even though Esau wept that he missed receiving the blessing, he never came to understand why he lost the blessing - because he could not believe what God had said. He was a man who had no faith. In bringing these things to our time, how many people do we know who are good people - morally good - whose emotions are stirred, but they just simply cannot believe what God has said to believe. That leaves them in disobedience, and they are like Esau and Cain - destitute of faith.

Turn back to Genesis 4:8. Now we see that Cain has still carried that rebelliousness, and he is now filled with "envy" because Abel is now right with God and he is not. This is the only thing that has come between these brothers! Do you realize that you cannot break a single one of the Ten Commandments without first being guilty of envy? Let's look again in the Book of Romans at Chapter 7, verse 7 in the New Testament to see this in the Word. Paul is making it so clear here that there is a great controversy in himself.

Romans 7:7

"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, `Thou shalt not covet.'"

Think about this in the next few days as you go about your work. Is there anything within the Ten Commandments that you can break without first coveting? Not a one. Everything that is within our relationship, so far as disobedience is concerned, is always triggered by coveting or envy - jealousy, which just eats at the very inner being of a person's being until it comes to the surface. That's what happened to Cain in Genesis 4. Cain became envious of Abel's relationship to God because God had accepted him. But instead of Cain's returning to God in obedience, what did he do? He let that envy eat and eat at him, until finally he got his brother out in the field away from everybody else, and they had it out.

The Hebrew makes it clearer here than our English does, but the thought is that these two young men with a controversy argue with one another until, finally, the more macho of the two says, "We'll just go outside and settle this," and they fight it out. Cain's envy had come to such a crescendo that he took his brother into the field to settle it once and for all - and Cain knew exactly how he was going to settle it! Look at verse 8:

Genesis 4:8

"And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him."

There are some "clichés" that I use over and over in my teaching and one of them is, "Sin begets Sin!" We have to be so careful, because once we get down into the path of sin, one sin just follows another sin so naturally, automatically. And this is just what happened to Cain!

What was Cain's first sin? … A lack of faith! He could not believe that what God said was true. After that sin, what followed? Envy, jealousy? And that envy actually took him to the place where he committed an even more heinous sin, murder; and Cain killed his brother! Then, in verse 9, God came back on the scene; and you must remember that in the Old Testament times it's totally different than what we can experience today.


Acts 9:4

"And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"

That was what? Grace! Grace! And so we are in that same category with the Apostle Paul, we are saved without ever doing anything on our part. And listen, that's the way it's always been. You know I'm always taking you back to Genesis, and the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve have sinned, they've partaken of that forbidden tree, and immediately saw their human nakedness, and what did they do? They sewed their fig leaves, but those fig leaves just sort of fell into nothing when they heard the LORD coming down the path, and what did they do? They run and hide, even with their fig leaves they are in no shape to meet their Righteous Creator so they hide. Does the Creator give up, and say, "Well I can't find them, I'm going back to heaven?" What does He do? He finds them, and He's see them in their hiding, and says, "Adam where art thou," and Adam has to respond. But what does God do? He restores them. What is that? That's mercy. That's Grace. When I say that we're in the Age of Grace I never imply that God's Grace is something that was unknown until we get to Paul. It becomes the great attribute of God with Paul's epistles, but Grace was already evident in the Garden of Eden.

And as I have already showed you when Israel went after the golden calf, what kept God from destroying them? His mercy and Grace. And when they rejected the Messiah, and they crucified Him, again God had every right in this world to wipe Israel off the map, but why didn't He? His Grace. And the whole human race tonight - why has God forestalled destroying humanity when we know they deserve it. He doesn't because of His Grace. And we can never comprehend it.

Les Feldick